NEW YORK — Broadway marquees will be dimmed next week in memory of late theater great Chita Rivera, who died in New York on Jan. 30 at the age of 91 following a brief illness.
The Broadway League announced Tuesday that lights in the Theater District will go dark for one minute at exactly 7:45 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 17.
“Chita Rivera was Broadway royalty, and we will miss her with all our hearts,” the organization’s outgoing president, Charlotte St. Martin, said in a statement. “For nearly seven decades she enthralled generations of audiences with her spellbinding performances and iconic roles. The triple threat actor, singer and dancer leaves behind an incredible legacy of work for which she was honored with a Special Tony Award for Lifetime Achievement.”
After attending Manhattan’s School of American Ballet as a teen, Rivera launched her Broadway career as a dancer in 1950’s “Guys and Dolls” before originating the legendary roles of Anita in “West Side Story” (1957), Rose in “Bye Bye Birdie” (1960) and Velma Kelly in “Chicago” (1975).
Other acclaimed performances include starring roles in “The Rink,” “Kiss of the Spider Woman” and the 2015 musical adaptation of “The Visit.”
The actress, singer and dancer — born Dolores Conchita Figueroa del Rivero — won two Tony Awards for best lead actress in a musical and became the first Hispanic American to receive Kennedy Center Honors. In 2009, President Barack Obama presented her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom, acknowledging her as an “agent of change” who blazed trails and broke down barriers.
Determined by the Broadway League’s Committee of Theatre Owners, the dimming of the lights is a longstanding tradition that typically occurs at or just before curtain time in honor of the recent passing of a Broadway great — the theater community’s equivalent of flying a flag at half-staff.
St. Martin previously said that to meet the criteria for consideration, selected individuals “need to have been very active recently in the theater, or else be synonymous with Broadway — people who made their careers here, or kept it up.”
“Chita Rivera is eternal,” said Rita Moreno, who took on the role of Anita in the 1961 film version of “West Side Story.”
“Over the years, we were sometimes mistaken for each other, which I always viewed as a badge of honor,” Moreno continued in a statement to the Daily News. “She was the essence of Broadway. As I write this, I am raising a glass to this remarkable woman and friend.”